The See of Canterbury combines, impossibly, leadership of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion. It is hedged in by ancient canonical legal requirements and political pressures born of establishment. But its symbolic weight is irreplaceable. Leave the Archbishop of Canterbury in place, as one of the two primates of the English church, with all that goes with that office. And then create a new episcopal office, the Bishop of Canterbury Cathedral, within the bounds of the grounds. This could be by analogy with the Secretary General, though it would need the agreement of the Church of England. Together build a second cathedra, from the wood of every province, and place it off-center in the sanctuary.
Pause for a moment to consider such a symbol. The Bishop of Canterbury Cathedral, most likely now from the Global South, sits in the chair of the grandparent, spiritually speaking. It will be a chair for an apostolic envoy to the communion, a chair filled with 1,500 years of history, a missionary chair not only in the line of Augustine, but also of Kivebulaya, Azariah, and Luwum and all their global mission colleagues. It will embody the reach of the gospel to the ends of the earth and back to the apostles. And yet the Bishop of Canterbury Cathedral inhabits a cathedral now with two bishops, itself a symbol of complexity and differentiation, and in the midst of that a symbol of collegiality too. The second cathedra evokes deep and ancient memory, of the martyrs, of the margins of the church, whose representative now sits on the chair of authority.
An extraordinary and (to my mind) moving proposal from the good bishop. It is an image of the irresolvable contradictions inherent in the See of Canterbury, but an image also of the Anglican Communion’s determination to live somehow with those contradictions, rather than cutting one another off. It is an acknowledgment of brokenness and a hope for ultimate union. It is as though the whole Anglican world were speaking to one another in the words of Jacob on the banks of the Jabbok: “I will not let you go until you bless me.”